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Mental Health

Using Therapy to Deal With Depression

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“I had no idea where to place this demon within me. She wasn’t who I am.”
New Jersey
I was 9 years old in my closet, balling my eyes out, with no understanding as to why. From what I can remember, my day was great. Then, I had this overwhelming feeling of emotions, that usually only came if I fell off my bike.

As time went on, my episodes became more explosive. I would scream and yell and cry.

I started to break things in my room around 12. I’d punch holes in my door.

I had no idea where to place this demon within me. She wasn’t who I am.

I started to go to therapy upon my freshman year of high school. Around that time, I was also struggling with my sexuality.

After a few sessions, I was diagnosed with depression. This diagnosis gave me the answer to my sadness, often in the middle of a cheerful time.

Close to my 15th birthday, I came out to my mom and she was not taken back by it. She told me ‘I had a feeling.’

I started to use drugs heavily and self-harm to cope with this. The drugs were my saving grace in the mist of chaos, and the self-harm reflected my pain within.

I was 18 years old when I decided to take matters into my own hands to deal with my depression and not allow it to destroy what was left of me. I began to see what I feel was the greatest therapist I have ever had the privilege of knowing. She helped with everything.

She helped me understand who this other version of me was. Thanks to her, I have not used prescribed medication in almost 5 years. I can deal with myself much better now and writing has become my only coping tool.

I’ve tattooed on my former cutting arm: ‘fighting my demons until my angels outweigh them.’ That is my everyday fight. I want any kid or adult going through the same thing to know that ‘ Life is worth it.

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Mental Health

There Are Ways To Lessen Your Stress

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“I believe one should push themselves to achieve great things, and put in the work to achieve those things, but always know that there are ways to lessen your stress.”
Harrisburg, PA
Google defines stress as the ‘state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.’ As a student, I certainly know this feeling along with the emotional and physical damage one can experience due to significant amounts of stress. It can lead to severe mental disorders, like depression or anxiety.

Although I do not believe I have ever been affected by depression, I have experienced the side effects of increased amounts of stress. A time I remember being the most stressed took place in my senior year of high school. During this time period, I had not decided where I was going to attend college which scared me due to the unknown approaching so quickly.

At that time, I was president of two clubs and sat as a student representative on my districts board, while working two jobs to save money for my college expenses. All of this, on top of a relationship, where I felt trapped and unhappy in, pushed me too far.

I experienced shakiness in my body, increased heart rate, headaches, a loss of appetite, sociability, and disinterest in activities I used to enjoy. I believed that in order to get through this hard time in my life, I had to keep pushing through my stress, which I later found untrue.

A huge part of my stress came from being in this relationship. If I could give my younger self advice, I would tell her to break off this unhealthy relationship because of the anxiety he caused her. I would tell her to learn to eliminate her stressors and learn to not wallow in her sufferings, but to advocate for herself and eliminate unnecessary origins of stress.

This, of course, does not mean stop studying for classes because they stress you out, but to learn to plan your day and better manage your time. I believe one should push themselves to achieve great things, and put in the work to achieve those things, but always know that there are ways to lessen your stress. Through accommodating to your situation and eliminating people or extra activities out of your life that are triggers for stress.

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Mental Health

Transform Negative Thoughts Into Positive Thoughts

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“I had to constantly remind myself that if I cannot love myself then how can I expect anybody to love me. Repeating that to myself everyday helped me a lot.”
Orange County, NY
Going to an all-girls high school, you would think I did not have to deal with the normal problems most high school girls deal with. Wrong! I dealt with the same kind of issues just in a different way.

One of the many problems I dealt with was academics. During high school, I had to transfer from my old school because of budget cuts to a new school, outside my district, that I struggled with adapting to the new environment.

My teachers felt that I hadn’t had the proper education because of the district I came from. They treated me differently. I wouldn’t receive the same attention as the smarter kids.

Making friends was also hard since students tended to group up with who they thought were going to look good in terms of popularity, so I always felt like an outsider. Everything in school felt like a competition. It was very challenging.

My struggles at school lead to anxiety and insecurity issues. I would always overthink everything. And I started stressing with the fact that I wasn’t good enough to attend my high school or even attend college.

The only thing that helped me get through this was talking to my friends and getting a lot of unhealthy thoughts off my chest. But even then, that wasn’t enough.

The thoughts of me not ‘being good enough’ for school escalated to ‘me not being good enough at all.’ These thoughts isolated me from my friends.

I thought nobody was ever going to like me, and that I would never develop a love life. I had to teach myself about self-love. It was not easy.

I tried really hard to make sure that any negative thoughts that would come to my mind would be replaced with positive ones. I had to constantly remind myself that if I cannot love myself then how can I expect anybody to love me. Repeating that to myself everyday helped me a lot.

Little by little, I started realizing that I was valuable. That I was good enough. I realized that I was loved and that I had supportive friends that were there for me.

My daily routine of just reminding myself that I am good enough has transformed my life. Since then, my insecurities and anxieties have slowly vanished.

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Mental Health

The Benefits of Therapy For Mental Health

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“People need to realize that therapy can benefit anyone. It’s an open space to talk about anything that you’re going through.”
Bronx, NY

Photo Credit: Katherine Puello

When I was in my sophomore year of college, I was having a really hard time coping with a lot of the things in my life; from work, to school, to the passing of a lot of important people in my family. It came to a point where I was no longer able to function outside of myself and my space.

I’ve never really been one to care that much about my mental health. As long as I was able to do my job and get homework done, I didn’t really care about the things that were going on in my mind.

It wasn’t until it started affecting my grades and my paycheck that I started to take it seriously. That’s when I realized that I had to do something.

I didn’t know what to do, especially in communities of color, mental illness isn’t really talked about. Depression and anxiety are things that you can ‘pray away’ or ‘if you just have a better outlook on life you’ll be fine’ or ‘you have to make the choice to be happy’.

Yet, I was trying to make the choice, but it still wasn’t happening. I was trying to put in the effort, but my body and my mind weren’t connected, so that I could do that.

Thankfully, I had a support system, from home and on-campus, of people who realized that I wasn’t okay, no matter how much I tried to hide it. I had people who were close to me and who were able to put the fire under me to go see a therapist.

After a couple visits in therapy, I felt so guilty about it. I felt that if my parents found out that they’d be sad and feel like they had failed as parents. Or if my friends found out, they would think I was crazy.

I felt terrible for airing my dirty laundry. I wasn’t even thinking about myself and my well-being. Eventually, I started my journey for self-healing and self-discovery by starting my therapy sessions again.

I finally had a therapist who helped me view my mental health as homework, which is really good for me. Treating myself like work makes me know that I can do it. Cognitive brain therapy has been especially helpful for me.

My parents see mental illness as not really a luxury that I can afford as a woman of color. But I saw that I needed to make my mental health a priority or else I wouldn’t be able to be successful.

People need to realize that therapy can benefit anyone. It’s an open space to talk about anything that you’re going through. It’s so important to change the conversation when it comes to mental illness and to make it more accessible for everyone.

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